warcraft IMAX 3D

Based on Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, the multiplayer role-playing game, Warcraft represents a chance to turn the tide for video game adaptations. A lot is riding on the film–this is far from a cheap video game movie–but will audiences unfamiliar with Blizzard’s property flock to director Duncan Jones‘ (Moon) fantasy film? We’ll soon find out. So far, Warcraft isn’t faring well with critics, but it’s not without its supporters.

Below, check out the Warcraft early buzz.

Here are a few excerpts from the reviews published yesterday:

The Hollywood Reporter:

But if you’ve never played Warcraft the game, can you care about Warcraft the movie? Given the ardent global following of the franchise, will it matter? For non-aficionados, the two-hour experience could be more concise, but it’s no ordeal. Neither, though, is it consistently involving. If you haven’t already invested in the self-serious mythology, it can feel borderline camp, if not downright dull — or both, as when an uncredited Glenn Close intones platitudes from on high about darkness and light. Yet there’s no question that it’s a breakthrough in both storytelling and artistry for features based on video games. And compared with another medieval-ish tale, the soporific Hobbit trilogy, this international production is a fleet and nimble ride, likely to conquer overseas box offices and make a solid stand stateside.

Variety:

Hollywood’s habit of turning hit videogames into unwatchable movies continues unabated. …. The epic battle at the center of “Warcraft” isn’t the clash between humans and orcs. That’s just what takes up roughly two hours of screen time. The true conflict comes from filmmakers trying to tell a story with soul and struggling against the inherent ridiculousness of the commodity they’re working with. It shouldn’t take a mage to foresee that this pricey and preposterous adaptation of an online gaming phenomenon was preordained for artistic mediocrity.

Den of Geek:

Warcraft marks Jones’ first outing as a director of effects-heavy battle scenes, and it’s arguable that the set-pieces improve as the film goes on. Viewed in 3D, early fight sequences judder by in an ugly blur, yet later ones are better orchestrated and shot with a steadier hand. With blasts of magic picked out in dazzling flashes of blue and acid green, Jones captures the vibrancy of the Blizzard games. The acting and dialogue are best described as functional, but the characters are endearing, and it’s refreshing to see a summer movie where it’s seldom too obvious who will survive to the end credits. Warcraft doesn’t aim for the obsessive vastness of Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy, but the overwhelming sense that Jones is enjoying the chance to play around in a world of magic and monsters means his splashy film succeeds on its own broadly entertaining terms.

Screen International:

The orcs, wizards and warriors of Warcraft clomp determinedly onto the big screen in Legendary Pictures’ live-action take on the 20-year-old video game series. The result is a 3D sword-and-sorcery adventure whose CG-heavy look and cartoonish action should work for gamers and hardcore genre fans, even if the flat-footed drama may put off mainstream audiences and limits the chances of the property – already turned into novels and comic books – becoming a long-running movie franchise.

The Wrap:

Critics throw the term “soulless corporate filmmaking” around with abandon, but movies like “Warcraft” really manage to redefine the term. A film adaptation of the hugely popular MMORPG (that’s Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) “World of Warcraft,” this latest video game adaptation ranks near the bottom of the deadly genre. Imagine “Battlefield Earth” without the verve, or the unintentional comedy, and you’ve got “Warcraft.” … [Duncan Jones is] trying to wrestle with too many characters and locations and motivations and subplots, all in a movie that’s clearly intended to be but the first of many.

Kotaku:

Rather than tapping into the goofy core that makes a game like World of Warcraft interesting, the Warcraft movie aims for grittiness, missing the mark quite a bit. It just doesn’t work. The lore is too campy. This is a world where a mage’s most popular spell transforms his enemies into sheep, yet Warcraft acts as if it’s a green-screen version of Game of Thrones. At my theater, the biggest laughs came not from the occasional bouts of slapstick comedy but from the miserable archmages of Dalaran, whose CGI-enhanced eyes look especially absurd when you’re supposed to take them seriously. I had hoped Warcraft would at a minimum be entertaining, but really, I’ve had more enjoyable two-hour sessions wiping on Molten Core. At least the armor looks good.

Crave:

There is an undeniable zeal to be found in Warcraft, a refreshing sincerity for old-fashioned fantasy conceits. Duncan Jones’s film defies ironic detachment. Those looking for cheap thrills and camp value will be severely disappointed, and those looking for decent drama that takes orcs seriously as characters will find it if they’re willing to do a little work. It takes Warcraft a while to get going, and by the time everyone’s had their proper introduction it’s already time to start wrapping things up.

The thing about Warcraft is, there’s a reason people spend hours and hours and hours and sometimes even whole years of their life inside of this world. There is an awful lot to explore, and cramming it all into the running time of a single movie is sometimes exciting, but it also usually comes across as a bit frantic. What Warcraft, the movie, really needed was another hour or so to make this very polished fantasy world seem lived in, and to explore more details that won’t necessarily be important later, and to let the characters talk to each other about something other than the plot for more than one single, solitary scene.

Crave’s review is spot-on. Warcraft plays as an epic reduced to two short hours, often missing connective tissue and pivotal character beats. Where Warcraft is lacking–fully-realized supporting characters, mostly–it often makes up for with giddy, fast but always coherent action (which mostly takes place during daylight), real stakes, some stunning images (the portal sequence), and Paula Patton and Ben Foster‘s performances.

Patton and Foster play the most well-rounded characters. Their performances are surprisingly nuanced. As broad and as funny as Foster’s performance often is–he first appears as a long-haired, shirtless rock star wizard–there’s a compelling sadness to the tortured Medivh. Foster is the beating heart of Warcraft; it’s the kind of performance that keeps your eyes hooked to the screen, even as the film sometimes struggles to find its rhythm. Duncan Jones‘ video game adaptation doesn’t live up to its potential, but it’s not without its high points. As a big, nerdy-as-hell piece of fantasy, it’s an enjoyable, unironic summer movie.

If you want to see more reactions to Warcraft, Jones has been sharing some positive fan responses on his Twitter feed:

Warcraft opens in theaters June 10th.

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